In the sacred tapestry of human existence, there are moments of profound significance that transcend the boundaries of faith and culture. I’m thinking of the fasting and “sacrificing” of food and turning heavenward to forces greater than ourselves. I’m thinking of the Catholic celebration of Lent, the Hindu celebration of Maha Shivaratri, as well as the holy holidays of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan. I think of all of these celebrations as pillars of devotion, embodying the essence of sacrifice and renewal. As we approach these hallowed days in 2024, amidst the backdrop of a world rife with turmoil and strife, their message resonates with a clarity that beckons us to action.

These high and holy holidays demand sacrifice, not merely in the form of rituals and traditions, but in the profound commitment to serve others. In a world beset by conflicts, both internal and external, the imperative to extend a hand of compassion and empathy becomes so much more urgent.

The essence of sacrifice lies not in the grand gestures or the ostentatious displays of piety, but in the quiet acts of kindness and selflessness that permeate the fabric of our communities. Churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples alike are called upon to transcend the confines of their walls and embrace the mandate to serve those in need. One pastor told me that her church is paying more for utility bills for her congregants than food. Other congregations have transformed their halls into shelters for the “working homeless” — those who are unable to pay rent but are getting by being underemployed.

While many faith communities are already engaged in noble endeavors, providing food, clothing, monetary donations, and shelter to the most vulnerable among us, the need for action transcends the boundaries of familiarity and comfort. It demands a radical reimagining of our role in the world as people of faith, a recognition that our faith is not a shield behind which we can retreat, but a beacon that compels us to venture forth into the world and make a tangible difference. I call it boots on the ground ministry. Getting out into the community to let our light shine without expecting anything of those who receive our gifts. Afterall, all of our gifts come from God; therefore, we are only vessels of God’s goodness.

The plight of those caught in conflict zones serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of human existence and the imperative to act with urgency and compassion. It is not enough to offer prayers from the safety of our sanctuaries; we must heed the call to action and extend a hand of solidarity to those who suffer in war zones. Our churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples can transform into factories of service, as we partner with the community to compile necessities for our brothers and sisters who are waking up in uncertainty and the piercing whistles and roaring machines carrying ammunition. In the words and music of Will L. Thompson’s hymn “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?” the refrain pounds loudly in my ears to:

“…Wake up and do something more 

Than dream of your mansion above.

Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,

A blessing of duty and love.”

In this season of reflection and renewal, let us pledge to embody the spirit of sacrifice in all its forms. Let us be the hands that feed the hungry, the voices that speak for those who are living in or fleeing from conflict and political instability, and the hearts that embrace the marginalized and disenfranchised.

As we gather to commemorate the timeless rituals of Lent, Maha Shivaratri, Easter, Passover, Ramadan, and all of our holy holidays, let us remember that true devotion lies not in the observance of religious customs, but in the steadfast commitment to serve humanity with humility, compassion, and relentless labor. May this be our sacred vow of duty and love, as we journey forward together, bound by the common thread of our shared humanity, our Faith.

By Nkoyo Iyamba
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
Community Outreach
DC and Maryland metro